Legal firm eventually pays crash victim - motorcyclist had to wait 5 months

GET YOUR PAPERS IN ORDER: Submit your claim as soon as you can after any crash, then monitor its progress Photo: Fredlin Adriaan
GET YOUR PAPERS IN ORDER: Submit your claim as soon as you can after any crash, then monitor its progress Photo: Fredlin Adriaan

WHEN the Johannesburg High Court ordered the Road Accident Fund to pay him, 61-year-old Obed Maphotho thought his seven-year wait since he was involved in a motorcycle crash was over.

But after the RAF paid his compensation of R225000 into the trust account of his attorneys, Wim Krynauw, the law firm did not tell him that his claim had been paid out, Maphotho said.

Maphotho of Palm Springs, in Vereeniging, had the crash in 2008 while working as a messenger for a law company on a contract basis.

The accident left him with a broken right leg. Maphotho underwent surgery to have a metal rod inserted into his knee for a few months.

He said while in hospital, he was visited by a woman representing Wim Krynauw Attorneys who told him that they helped crash victims to claim compensation from the RAF. Maphotho says he accepted their offer to help him.

The attorneys, he says, took him to several doctors for check-ups. They successfully lodged his claim and the court ruled in his favour in July last year. The RAF paid out the money in November.

Maphotho said he expected the attorneys to inform him once the RAF had paid the money, but they did not. When he inquired about progress in his case in March this year, he was told that the RAF had not yet paid up.

He contacted the RAF and was told they had paid out the money. Despite the proof of payment that Maphotho had, he said the attorneys still denied that the fund had settled.

"It was only after telling them that I had a statement to prove that the RAF had settled that they acknowledged receipt of payment. Before then I depended on caring relatives and friends," Maphotho said.

The father of two and his family's sole bread-winner lost his job after the crash. Maphotho's long wait ended last Friday when he finally received his payout after Sowetan intervened on his behalf.

He received R160000 plus R4500 interest from the apologetic law firm after they deducted their legal fees. Hein Nortje, a director at Wim Krynauw, confirmed that they had acted on Maphotho's behalf. Nortje says there was an administrative error and as a result they had failed to notify Maphotho of his payment.

He said the law firm had not intentionally withheld information from Maphotho or his money.

He added that it was unacceptable that Maphotho had to wait for five months to be paid.

"As a sign of goodwill our firm will pay Maphotho an amount of R4500 in lost interest," he said.

An ecstatic Maphotho confirmed receipt of his money last Friday.

Know your do's and don'ts on how to claim

MANY clients who are not happy about the services of an attorney often do not register their dissatisfaction.

Before lodging a complaint it is better to raise your problems with your attorney.

Remember that as much as an attorney is entitled to be remunerated for consultations, they are also obliged to report to their client on progress in matters (they are dealing with).

It is only fair to allow the attorney a reasonable opportunity to report to you before filing a complaint.

As the client of an attorney you have the right to:

l professional, honest and unbiased advice at all times;

l be treated with professional courtesy, respect and fairness, regardless of your race, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation or disability;

l privacy and attorney-client confidentiality;

l agree to the type of service you can expect and receive;

l clear explanations in terms you can understand;

l find out from the start of the consultation what you are hoping to achieve, and aim to make sure that your expectations are realistic;

l know who will be handling your matter;

l be advised on the likely success of your matter and not to do unnecessary work that will lead to unnecessary expenses;

l an explanation of the cost implications and how the costs are likely to be calculated;

l be kept informed of costs, so that you can work out if a particular course of action is worth following financially;

l be kept updated on developments and on progress as work on your matter proceeds;

l responses to your letters and telephone calls within a reasonable time;

l a clear bill which shows the work done and the amounts charged;

l complain about your attorney if you believe the attorney is acting unethically or in an unprofessional manner;

l have the attorneys' account assessed and taxed if you are of the view that it is too high; and;

l subject to certain conditions, you have the right to cancel your mandate to the attorney at any stage and consult another attorney.

As the client of an attorney you have the responsibility to:

l treat your attorney with respect and courtesy;

to give your attorney correct and complete information, and to disclose all the relevant facts to assist your attorney to give you the appropriate advice;

l give your attorney clear instructions;

l enquire about the cost implications and how the costs will be calculated;

l pay a deposit if requested to do so;

l respond timeously to all requests for information from your attorney;

l not to direct unnecessary enquiries to your attorney as your attorney may charge consultation fees for these enquiries, and this may increase costs unnecessarily;

l settle bills from your attorney timeously; and to use the legal system, including the courts, appropriately and not abuse it.

Sourced from the Law Society's website:

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